Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Swim Part 2: England - France

I stood on the beach, fixed my goggles and waited for the signal to start. At that stage I probably should have been having deep profound thoughts about what lay ahead and what I wanted to achieve. But to be honest I was just very excited to be starting and happy to have finally gotten the chance to swim. All of the nerves were gone. I was ready!

Yay, time to begin! :)

At about 10:35am Lance blew the horn on the boat. My swim had started! I hobbled down the stones (I'm not very good with walking on the shingly Dover beaches!!) and started swimming. I had thought that the first few hours when I was only feeding on the hour would go very slowly, but it felt like a very short time before my first feed. It went well and I was happy! I did realise that it was quite difficult to hear the crew talking (I had earplugs in) so out came the whiteboard for messages for the rest of the swim.

One of the most common questions I get asked when I talk to people about my swim is what I think about while I'm swimming. A lot of swimmers talk about mind games that they play to keep themselves occupied. I don't do anything interesting really. I just let my mind wander wherever it wants to go. I've had plenty of practice from the long pool sessions! On the swim I spent a lot of time thinking about my training and about all of the people that helped me and what I'd been through to get to where I was. My crew were passing me on text messages from people that had come through, and after hearing one of these I would often spend the next while thinking about that person and how they had helped me in my training and preparation. I also spent a lot of time singing...I love the Amy McDonald album 'This is the Life' and the Lily Allen album 'It's Not Me, It's You' so I went through most of both of those. My most recent feel-good song is 'I Gotta Feeling' by the Black Eyed Peas and the Take That song 'Greatest Day' was in my head a lot. I tend to tune in to song lyrics a lot so when I wanted to change my internal cd I tried to think of a song that would keep me feeling energetic and encouraged. I did however end up with the Kookaburra song (you know the one-"Kookaburra sits in a tall gum tree, Merry merry king of the bushes he...") in my head for a good two hours. It was just stuck there randomly and nothing I could do would get it out! It was still better I think than 'Nellie the Elephant' though-I heard of one Channel swimmer recently who had that stuck in their head for six hours of their swim!!

Happy out!

Everything went well until it came to about 4 or 5 hours in. I think at that stage I had a moment of clarity where I realised exactly how much I still had ahead of me and the enormity of what I was really doing!! This was one of the things that I had worried about before my swim-I'd had very few times in training that I really had to convince myself to stay in the water so I didn't know how I'd deal with the mental demons if they arrived on the day of the swim. I never actually thought about getting out of the water, but I think I spent about an hour trying to convince myself that it was a good idea to stay in. Eventually I talked myself around, I figured that I'd done a 14-hour training swim, so there was no way I was giving up before that mark since I knew that I could get that far. I'm really glad that the doubts came in early in the swim. If I had started thinking like that later when I was more tired it would have been much harder to fight. But thankfully once I got those thoughts out of my head they never came back again.

I get asked if I saw much in the way of shipping while I was swimming. And to be honest I didn't really. I saw a few of the ferries on the first leg because we were travelling pretty close to their path. I had warned Sarah to try to get a photo of me with a ferry in the background, the iconic Channel swimming photo!! And she did :) Other than that I didn't really see much. The ships passing up and down the Channel weren't in my line of sight when I was breathing. I kept more of an eye out for them at night time, they were all lit up like Christmas trees then, they looked really cool!

I really WAS in the middle of the Channel!

At the half-way mark my crew gave me a signal. I had asked them before the swim to do this so that I could have some marker of where I was, since I knew that Lance probably wasn't going to be very forthcoming with that information. I was at 8 hours when they told me that I was half-way, and that really annoyed me for a while. I was figuring that if it had taken me 8 hours to get half-way then by the time I got to France I'd have taken so long that Lance would say that I wouldn't be able to make it back. At the next feed a half hour later I threw a bit of a tantrum and gave out that I was not swimming well and that my time was going to be very slow. That wasn't exactly what I meant though-I really didn't care about my time as a number, it was more that the longer I took getting over then the less chance I'd have of getting back. Once I started swimming again I regretted having said it, because I knew that they would spend until my next feed worrying about how to encourage me and how to keep me going. But I hadn't been thinking about giving up or anything like that, I was just frustrated that it might take me 16 or 17 hours to get to France and then it would be very hard to turn around. But I think as soon as I said it I realised how stupid it was to be worrying about things like that-my job was to keep swimming and not to think about getting there or not getting there, if Lance thought I wasn't going to get there then that was his call and until then I would keep swimming.

Maybe half-way across or a bit later my left shoulder started to get sore. All year when I've had shoulder issues it's been the right shoulder that's given me trouble. So I was surprised to have pain in the left shoulder instead during the swim. I think it was a good thing though-mentally if the right shoulder had gotten sore it would have been harder because I'd always dreaded that causing problems on the day...whereas when the left one got sore I just thought "that's strange, the wrong shoulder is sore!". I took some painkillers for it and they did help a lot. For a while anyway!!

I don't remember much about it getting dark. What I do remember is once it did get dark and as we got close to the French coast, I could see the lighthouse on the Cap. Every time I stopped to feed my crew were telling me to swim towards it, I knew that that was what we were aiming for. And every time I saw it, it looked exactly the same. It didn't look like we were getting any closer to it at all. I realised later that the tide had swept me past the Cap going south and then again going north. So I was pretty close to the lighthouse for quite a long time. Eventually we were swept north of it, and while I was disappointed to know that I wasn't going to land on the Cap, I was happy not to be seeing it at every feed any more!


I remember being quite frustrated for the last couple of hours getting into France. I couldn't see how far from land we were, and I felt like I was getting nowhere (this feeling was not helped by seeing the lighthouse continuously for so long!). One nice thing was that a relay that had just finished their swim came by and cheered me on. I must say that I definitely had a jealousy moment at that stage that they were done and I wasn't! It was a great boost though. And at one stage Lance turned up the music that he was listening to-I couldn't hear a lot of it besides the beat because of the water and the earplugs but I heard 'Castles in the Sky', a song that I really like, so that gave me a pleasant change of soundtrack for a while!!

At that stage I kept veering off from the boat. I could see lights off to the left from the town of Wissant but nothing else. At a few of the feeds my crew kept convincing me to follow the boat and not the lights. I've heard so often about Channel swims where the swimmer decides near the coast that the pilot is taking them the long way around and heads off in what they think is a better direction. I knew that they thought that that was what I was doing but it really wasn't-not consciously anyway! It just seemed that every time I looked to the boat it was WAY off to my left. I think that when I breathed to the left I probably took my line from the lights for the next 3 strokes until I breathed towards the boat and that must have been putting me off direction-wise. Eventually I concentrated on just following the light from the torch on the boat that was shining into the water and hoped that that would keep me nearer!!

Then Lance started playing around with the light on the front of the boat, and I couldn't figure out why. I guessed that he was probably getting it ready to shine on the beach for me but I couldn't figure out why he was doing it at that stage. I had absolutely no idea how close we were to land, I couldn't see a thing in front of me. I just concentrated on swimming towards the boat as much as I could. And then they started shouting at me to swim away from it, and that totally confused me. It took me a minute to realise that they meant that we were very close and the boat wasn't going in any further!! It was so nice when I did realise it though :)

As I got closer to the beach and Lance shone the light on my landing spot I saw that there were some people on the beach. I realised that a group of young French guys were having a beach party!! I realised that it they were on a beach in the middle of the night they probably weren't sober, and I was worried that they would touch me and end my swim. I kept asking them not to touch me and tried to explain what I was doing...but of course I was explaining in English, at that stage my French language skills were buried much too deep to be of any use!!! I'm not sure if they ever realised what was going on and why there was a boat arriving from nowhere and 3 people arriving out of the pitch black water...but they did seem to understand that I didn't want them to touch me anyway!! They wandered further along the beach, to my huge relief.

Sarah and Imelda had swum in behind me to make sure I was ok and to bring in some things for me. It was great to be able to chat to them without being under the same time pressure as I had on the feed stops. My big concern when I landed was that it had taken me over 17 hours to swim over and I was wondering if Lance was going to let me turn around after taking that long. I had calculated that from trying to add up the feed stops and figuring out where I was on the feed schedule (I had a list of feeds to cycle through). Imelda and Sarah looked at me as if I had about 10 heads, they couldn't figure out what I was talking about with the 17 hours. They convinced me that it had taken me much less than that and to look at my watch. And of course they were had actually taken me 14 hours and 36 minutes. Seeing and hearing that made me a lot happier! Of course it would have been nice to have hit the Cap and been faster, but I was never under any illusions of being a fast swimmer and I knew that if I had pushed it too hard on the way over I wouldn't have had anything left for the way back. Regardless I was so happy to realise that I was at the 14 hour rather than the 17 hour mark!!

While I was on the beach I did a few things. I had a drink of water (it was nice not to have to tread water while drinking it!), I had a couple of throat lozenges (my throat was quite sore from the salt water even with the mouthwash and I was afraid to have a lozenge while swimming in case I choked on it), I put on some more grease on my shoulders (and tried to get as much of it off my hands as I could after!) and I found a souvenir stone (this took a bit of searching since we were on a sand dune in the pitch darkness!). I had a bit of a chat with Imelda and Sarah, I can't remember what about at this stage. And then I heard Lance shouting so I assumed it was time to get back in.

I've had a lot of people asking me how I managed that part, the getting back in. It was something I had thought a lot about before the swim. Not in a visualising kind of way, I never really bought into the 'visualising your swim' thing, I always figured that I could never visualise something that I had never done and something that was so unpredictible. But I had thought about what I wanted my attitude to be on that beach. And I had had quite a bit of advice about how to view my whole swim. Freda Streeter, whose daughter Alison has done three two-way swims and a three-way (she is also Queen of the Channel with 43 EC solo swims to her name!), advised me to think of my England to France leg as a warm-up, and that my actual swim was from France to England. She suggested thinking of France as my starting point. Kevin Murphy (King of the Channel, with 34 EC solo swims including three two-ways) had warned me not to allow myself celebrate when I got to France. He said that especially since I hadn't done a one-way before, it would be very easy for me to decide that I was so happy having made it to France that I didn't need to turn around at all. I trained myself to think of France as a functional stop. I needed it to put on more grease and things like that, but it was just a step towards the goal, not a goal in itself. And I think this worked...the only thing that I was concerned about with regards to getting back in was whether or not Lance thought that I could make it back with the tides and my pace. I asked about this and Imelda quickly told me that I was getting back in regardless!! Even if I had wanted to get out I don't think that I was being given the option!!

And so it was time to start on the hard part of the swim...France to England...all in the next blog post!

P.S. I'll try to get the next installment up a bit faster than this one. I know that I'm always slow with blog posts anyway, but a few things made this one slower than normal. The most obvious one is all the randomness still happening in my life...I'm still going to schools most days and talking about the swim, I'm still raising money for my charities (yes, you can still donate!!) and I'm still trying to make myself go back to the PhD. But the main reason I think was that I went through a point of two or three weeks where I was feeling really low...I knew it was more than likely going to happen, it seems to be a common thing for people to go through a month or two after their swim. But it was still frustrating, I was constantly feeling down for no good reason. Things do seem to be better now thankfully! I'll talk about that stuff a bit more in my 'after the swim' post anyway!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Swim Part 1: The Lead Up

It's taking forever to write an account of my swim. Mainly because I've got so much going on at the moment and I'm finding that I'm not spending much time on the computer. But last night was a late night so today is a lazy day so I'm getting a bit of catch-up time!

I've decided to break the posting of the swim up into stages because I figure it will never get posted otherwise! Plus it will be WAY too long! So here goes with the first installment...

It's hard to even know where to start in describing my swim. It was such a fantastic experience, I can't say that I enjoyed absolutely every minute but I did enjoy most of it. It's nowhere near sinking in yet what I've done. Or maybe I'm still in denial the way I was leading up to it!

We spent a very long 10 days in Dover waiting for the weather to break. Wind, wind, wind. It was a big disappointment considering the forecast before we travelled had been so good so we had all thought we would get out nice and early in the tide. But it wasn't to be. The waiting was frustrating, but my outlook was always that there was nothing I could do so I might as well make the most of my time there. I swam almost every day in Dover harbour and spent lots of time relaxing in the caravan (in the fantastic Varne Ridge Caravan Park!). I even had time to paint my toenails!

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing

Irish Colours

All through the second week it looked like the weekend was going to be good. The question was, would it be good enough for a two-way? As the week went on it looked like Owen would go on Saturday and me on Sunday when it had calmed down a little more. Until I rang Mike on the Thursday night and he said that it looked possible that Saturday would be calm enough for me to go. So I arranged to ring him again the following morning to get a better update. And started panicking!! I hadn't been nervous for the few days leading up to that because I wasn't sure if I would actually swim or not. But now things were getting real. Mike was very certain that I would go at some stage over the weekend. I was terrified and so, so excited at the thought of it!

The following morning I rang Mike...and the news was scary! I was to go at 10:30am, meeting at the harbour at 9:45am. ALL SYSTEMS GO! It was an absolutely manic day. I had to arrange flights to get Sarah and Imelda over, sort through all of my stuff and pack it, shop for the things that we couldn't have gotten earlier in the week and borrow feeding equipment from Dave Whyte's boat. And eat and try to get to sleep reasonably early. It all worked out in the end, Dan offered to go and collect Imelda and Sarah from the airport which was great. And we had most of the stuff packed up and ready by the time I was heading off to bed. I had a shower, put on a layer of suncream so that it would be well soaked in by the morning, and went to sleep. And, surprisingly, I did actually manage to sleep! The following morning was also crazy, and very emotional for me-I spent half the morning crying for some reason!! I think it was just seeing and hearing from people who were supporting me, I got so many texts and had people calling to the caravan to wish me well. It was great. Finally we were ready to go, and Owen's dad, George, drove me down to the harbour. We had an absolute ton of stuff with us but we figured we didn't want to run out of anything out there!

We met Lance, my pilot, around 9:45 and I gave him the £3000 that was remaining to be paid for the swim. No going back now!! But the thought of not doing it didn't even cross my mind at that stage. I was at the point where I figured that I was going to have the easy job for the next 30+ hours (although maybe a lot of people would disagree with me on that one!). Lance and his crew of Chris and Tanya had to worry about navigating and getting me to France and back using the best route possible on the highest spring tide of the summer. My mother, sister and Imelda had to think about feeding me-what to give me and when, read how I was feeling so as to know what best to say to me and keep everyone at home informed. All I had to do was to try to make their jobs as easy as possible by putting my head down and taking stroke after stroke. I couldn't wait for all the fuss to be over and to be in the water and be able to hand off the thinking to everyone else. And soon that time came!

Lance drove us out of the harbour to my starting point at Abbot's Cliff. It was the perfect day to start a swim-the sun was shining and the water was like glass. Absolutely beautiful. On the way over Sarah and Imelda greased me up and I got ready to go.

Getting Ready

Greased up and ready to GO!

By the time we got there I was ready. Lance brought the boat right in and I only had a few metres to swim into the beach to my start. On the beach were Owen, George, Jackie (Owen's coach) and Ned. It was great to have them there to send me off. And I have some fantastic pictures of my start courtesy of George! Thanks George :)

My Send-Off! Thanks guys :)

Contemplating what's ahead...

And we're off :)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stopping the clock...

I've had a few conflicting reports on how long my swim took...some people said 35hrs 20mins, others said 35hrs 36mins. And to be honest, that evening when I got back on the boat it was the last thing on my mind-my shoulder was in so much pain that it could have been a time record and I wouldn't have cared less!! But I've been wondering about it since because my watch said 35hrs and 23secs when I finished so I couldn't figure out how I'd stopped it at some stage and started it again a while later, therefore losing 20 or 36mins on it. So I talked to Mike Oram and checked what the story is (still unofficial for now, it needs to be ratified before it becomes official). So here's the verdict:

Start time in England: 10:35am on 19th September 2009
Landing time in France: 1:11am on 20th September 2009
First leg England / France swim time - 14hrs 36 mins

Start time in France: 1:18am on 20th September 2009
Landing time in England: 9:35pm on 20th September 2009
Second leg France / England swim time - 20 hrs 24 mins (the return leg time includes the time spent in France)

Start time: 10:35am on 19th September 2009
Finish time: 9:35pm on 20th September 2009
Total for 2-way England / France / England - 35 hours

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


There's a post on the way about the swim when I eventually get enough time to finish it...this week is busy with school visits starting tomorrow and those will go on for the next couple of weeks. They'll be fun once they get started I'm sure, but for now I'm dreading them!! I'm ok with interviews because I'm just talking to one or two people at a time-I block out the fact that there's lots more people listening or watching!! But it's a little harder to block out when they're all sitting right in front of you...

Anyway, in the meantime...I've been nominated for the 2009 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year by the 10kswimmer blog. This for me is just unbelievable, I was delighted to just have my swim featured on there let alone to be nominated for that! It's amazing. You can vote here, once per computer. It will go on until the end of the year. Keep passing on the link!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What a Whirlwind!

It's been such an amazing week. Only this time last week I was on my way back to England having swam to France. I seems like a lifetime ago! I will post about my swim, I just want to put a bit of time into it and that's something that I don't have a lot of right now.

For now I want to say thank-you to everyone who has made this week so much fun for me. To everyone who rang, texted and emailed during and after the swim and to everyone who came to the airport to absolutely astound and amaze me! I'm still totally in shock at all the attention I've had this week-I really wasn't expecting it at all. I was expecting to come home to my family at the airport to welcome me and then to do a couple of newspaper interviews this week. Not to have 150 people at the airport and to be on the launch of TV3's new chat show! It's just been absolutely fantastic and I've been having so much fun with it.

One yummy part of my week was arriving home to a big cake on sister Amy and my friend Ruth Corcoran had been ringing around that morning to get signs and balloons and a cake and Lee Rourke Cakes offered to make it for free! Amazing. And it's so cool, she asked for my swimsuit and hat colour and all to make it more realistic. I love it!! (oh, and it's really yummy too-we've been cutting around the swimmer though, can't bear to cut that part!)

My REALLY cool cake!

On those lines, Ace Signs also sponsored a huge congratulations banner to welcome me home from the airport. People are so generous-both of these were done at only a few hours notice. Thank you so much!!

It's been such an amazing week for me. The media have been all over the story and I've had calls left right and centre. I'm heading up to Dublin in a couple of hours for the third time this week, I was up on Wednesday for TV3's new Midweek show (you can watch it here) which I really enjoyed doing. And I travelled up on Friday for the Late Late Show (watch it here). I was a little disappointed by how short an interview the Late Late gave to me and Owen, but it was a really fun night and we came away with a free hamper each so all was good! The car was very full on the way down with 3 big hampers in there!! Now I'm heading back up to be on The Hub on Setanta tonight and Ireland AM on TV3 on Tuesday morning. And then I think my life at least partly gets back to normality after that.

Time to go get packed and ready now. Keep updated on what I'm up to via my twitter on the side of this page. And DON'T FORGET TO KEEP here for all the details!

Monday, September 21, 2009

She is arriving in Cork at 4pm

Hey Everyone!

Just spoke to Lisa and read some of her sisters messages. Lisa is arriving at Cork airport around 4pm and RTE and TV3 TV stations will be there to document her arrival. From what I have heard she will be on the News at 5:30 this evening!

She is very alive and awake despite 2 hours of sleep last night! She is high on adrenaline!

If I hear anything else I will let you know.

Congrats to our favorite girl!

Sunday, September 20, 2009



SHE DID IT in 35hrs 36mins!!!!!


Last few metres. Shes nearly there guys!!!!

She is only about 200metres from shore now according to Imelda on her crew!

Direct Comment From LISA

Dont stop me now coz Im having such a good time......

Lisa is so close. Keep thinking about her. History could be closer than you think!!!!

Spoke to her sister Amy

She is still swimming! Wind has picked up, it's getting harder for Lisa to accomplish her achievement but not much will stop her! Send your positive thoughts, and will power because we all know what a champion she is!

GO LISA!!!!!

Updates From Amy over the past few hours!

Follow her to the END! @


Her boat is the Sea Satin

4:45pm Lisa is in great form!! The coast is getting clearer and she has started to pick up the pace. Come on our hero!!!

2:45 pm Great news... Lisa is in the last lane of the shipping lanes. Very positive feedback from the pilot. She has a little push from the tide so lets pray it will continue!!! X

Fantastic news..... Land is finally visible. She will be landing in Folkstone. X

Just to let everyone know the GPS is finally working properly again!

Great news. Very positive feedback from Lisas Pilot. The course is really nice with a small tide push. Lisas in the last of the shipping lanes. Shes nearly therer!

1:45 pm Lisa is very close to England. They cant see it because there is an awful haze. A few aches and pains but she is soldiering on!!! Aches and pains are nothing to her!!!

11:45am Lisa is over halfway back the channel. She is some woman. Its some day for the rebels today!!! Come one LISA. We know you can do it.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The big day is TOMORROW!!!! I'm just writing this update and then getting to bed, and when I get up it will be time to SWIM THE CHANNEL!!!! Very very exciting. And scary. But more exciting. I can't wait for all of the waiting and preparing and packing and general hassle to be over. I'm meeting my pilot tomorrow morning at 9:45am. So from 10:30/11am tomorrow morning all I have to think about is putting one arm in front of the other until I get back to where I started. I don't think that I've really come to the realisation of what I'm doing yet. But I'm sure it will hit me when I'm still swimming after 20 hours!! Or maybe it won't and I'll still be in denial when I'm done, who knows.

Updates during my swim:
GPS Tracker: my boat has a gps tracker on board that broadcasts our location every 10 minutes. The link is here and then click on 'Sea Satin' (the name of my boat). It shows a map of the Channel and the path that I've covered. It's really cool! Don't worry if there's no update for longer than 10 minutes though, sometimes I've been watching people and there's no update for up to an hour-I think it's just if they're in an area with bad connection or whatever.

Twitter: my twitter page is here. Sarah will be updating it every so often. Dan may also have updates on his twitter here. That's not 100% certain as of now. My twitter updates will feed through to my facebook page where you can comment on them, but I won't get the comments til after the swim. The updates will also be shown on the right-hand side of my blog. I may also have some blog updates going, we'll see how that goes.

Text: you can text my phone at +353 87 6681369 or Sarah at +353 85 7142964. Messages will get through to me but you may not get a reply until after the swim. The only guaranteed texts to go out are for the people who sponsored a mile. If you are going to text in please try to make the texts funny!!! I'm gonna need as many laughs as I can get out there, I really want to enjoy this swim as much as anyone can possibly enjoy 30+ hours of non-stop exercise!!

So I'm gonna sign off now and get some much-needed sleep. And the next time I update I'll hopefully be a two-way English Channel swimmer :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

GO GO GO!!!!!

Excellent news from my pilot tonight....looks like the weekend is going to be good and right into Tues/Wed at least. So it looks like all the waiting will finally be worth it!! He's not sure yet when exactly the winds are going to die down but it looks like a possible start Saturday at midday or Sunday at midday. SO EXCITING!!!!!

Time to get some rest now, that's gonna have to be a priority over the next few days. That and eating of course!!!

I'll try to get a post up here tomorrow about how to follow my swim...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Playing the waiting game...

There's not much going on here at the moment...the good weather seems to be avoiding us. Looks like the next few days are going to be horrible but then it looks like the wind will die down at the end of the week so the weekend looks good for a swim. Hopefully the forecast is correct!

My tides officially finish this Wednesday, and then we start into spring tides. This means that there will be more water movement with each tide and so it can cause swims to cover a much wider path. I talked to Mike about the possibility of doing a two-way on a spring tide-I thought that it might cause problems if I were to get pushed far along the French coast. He said that they do make navigation a bit more difficult but it can be done, and my pilot, Lance, successfully piloted for a two-way on a high spring tide in 2004. So basically what happens now is that we keep our swim preferences (I've got the first-place slot so I get first choice on whether or not to swim if good weather comes along) until the 23rd, when the next tide starts. If I still haven't gone at that stage I get put to the back of the queue for that tide. Unfortunately Lance has 4 people lined up for that tide so it would be at least the 27th or 28th then before I could think about another opportunity to swim even if the weather was perfect. Mike has said that they are prepared to keep swims going into October if the weather allows it and until the water gets too cold. So it's just a waiting game from now on...

We've been filling our time wandering around the towns close to here. We went to Folkestone and Canterbury to do a bit of shopping (well-Sarah shopped, me and mum just wandered around!) and then yesterday we headed along the cliffs in Dover for some nice views of the Channel. We took some photos, but they make it look rather evil with the black clouds in the background. Maybe that's apt though considering all of the stress that it's causing us this week!

If you look hard you can see France on the horizon!

We the headed a bit further along to St Margaret's Bay, where we got more of a first-hand experience of why exactly no-one was out swimming. I'm not sure how much of it is conveyed on the video but it was CHOPPY out there!! I think that the sound says more than the video really, that's WIND in the background!

All pray to the weather gods that this wind goes soon!!

And while you're waiting for news...don't forget, there's still miles left to sponsor here! Over half of them have been sponsored so go there now, pick your mile and donate your €50 (or more!) on my charity page. Go go go!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Bigger Update...

The last couple of weeks have flown by. I haven't been doing a huge amount of training but I've had a million other things to do! I've been spending a lot of time trying to get my fundraising up and going, and that's been going well. I'm up over €2,400 online for Jack and Jill, and over €2000 offline for Marymount and ARC. Incidentally, if you want to donate or sponsor one of my miles you can do so by clicking here.

Other than that I've been getting stuff together and getting myself organised for the trip. And now I'm here. In Dover. We left Cork yesterday around 1pm and arrived in Dover at dinnertime. We went straight to Varne Ridge, the caravan park where we're staying, and were met by the owners, David and Evelyn. They showed us to our caravan and gave us lots of info. Then I rang Mike Oram (my pilot's father, my contact for the swim) to get updates on the weather and when it was looking possible to swim. It had looked good a couple of days before but unfortunately the forecast had changed-winds were due to rise. He said that it looked like it would be at least the weekend before anything was moving. So time to settle in and get used to waiting!

We headed out for dinner to a pub down the road from the caravan park (the Royal Oak if anyone's interested!) that David and Evelyn had suggested-a good recommendation! The food was lovely, and we got TONS of it! Then some grocery shopping in Dover and back to the caravan to chill for a few hours before bed. I did try to get internet going but we had the wrong wireless password so nothing was happening (obviously that has since been rectified!).

So then today we woke up to a big change in weather. It was cloudy, and the wind had come up. It still didn't seem that strong-if I'd heard wind like that in Cork it wouldn't make me think twice about swimming in Sandycove. So I was wondering if it was really THAT bad. Until I saw the Channel itself. And the white horses. No hope of getting across in that. And it was only due to get worse :(

So we decided to do some more shopping for groceries and some stuff for the swim. First a trip to Lidl and then to Folkestone to have a look around there. I was hoping to get a swim in the harbour today but my throat and ears were scratchy and sore and I didn't feel 100% so I figured that it was time for lots of honey and lemon and ginger and that a swim wouldn't be the best thing to do. I do feel a lot better this evening except for being quite tired so I think it's going to be an early night...

A couple more things happened today...
The other lads arrived. I haven't seen Sylvain yet, I was talking to Owen earlier and he was in for a swim in the harbour, he said the temperature was lovely. I'm looking forward to getting in tomorrow hopefully...
Also, I talked to Mike and he said that it's looking bad right up until Monday. NOT the news I wanted, but I was expecting it. I need all the prayers I can get for good weather now!!

Now that I've written this I think it's gonna have to wait til the morning to get sent, I'm absolutely wrecked and don't feel like going down to connect to the I'll send it first thing. I'll also try to get a post out tomorrow about following my swim...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


I'm landed in Dover. I flew into London yesterday with my mother and sister, we rented a car and drove down. It was gorgeous when we arrived, beautiful sun, lovely calm water. And a BAD forecast! We woke up this morning to winds and white horses on the water. So it looks like nothing is going to be moving for the next couple of days at least...
I'm keeping this short and sweet because I'm just grabbing a few minutes of internet before the library wireless at the caravan park isn't working yet. But I'll try to get a bigger post up in the next few days. Either way I'll try to update my twitter ( from my phone with what's going on. So keep checking!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sponsor a Mile...

In two weeks time I'll be in Dover. I can't wait! I'm doing very little training at this stage, lots of short swims to keep my muscles loose but lots of rest too. It's nice not to be doing the 10 and 12 hour swims anymore, but I'm getting impatient at this stage! Im looking forward to getting to Dover and getting the swim started.

In the meantime, it's time to concentrate on trying to raise some money for my charities. And this is where you come in. If you're reading this now, and are thinking to yourself, "I must sponsor her sometime"....GO AND DO IT!!!! No time like the present! My sponsorship page is here. No excuses!!

From now on, you can sponsor a mile of my swim. What this means is that if you donate €50 or more towards my charities, you can pick one of the miles of my swim as your own (miles still available are listed here). Then, sometime during that mile, you will get a text letting you know how I'm getting on (if I have a mobile number for you). €50 may seem like a lot-but I'm swimming 42 miles!! Think of where you were this time yesterday. Now imagine that you started swimming then...and you're still swimming...and you still have 6 or 8 hours ahead of you. That's gonna be me pretty soon. Don't you think that's worth €50?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Last Long One...

So, after the antics of Friday night/Saturday morning, an easy day was called for on Sunday. Two hours in the lake, just enough to stretch out the muscles and see where the pains were. Thankfully I didn't feel much in the way of pain-I was, however, FREEZING! In 17deg C, I felt colder than I had the night before in 12deg C. It really showed me how important rest is-when the body is tired everything is so much harder. So I'd like to say that I slept well that night in preparation for my 14 hour swim the following day. But I didn't. I had gotten bitten all across my stomach during the night swim by sea lice, and basically looked like I was covered in chicken pox. And they were just as itchy. So I kept waking up on Sunday night finding myself scratching them and making them sore and itchier. I think I got about an hour and a half's sleep all night, maybe two. Not such good preparation for a long swim! Of course, the one time when I did manage to fall fast asleep was just before the alarm went off at 5:45am....typical.

I got myself moving, had a nice big breakfast and headed for the lake. I was hoping to start as close to 7am as possible so that I would be finished before it got dark that evening. It was a dull, grey morning, which didn't make getting into the water a very inviting prospect. But I greased up and got in. The water felt much warmer than it had the day before thankfully-I really didn't want to have 14 hours of feeling cold ahead of me!

I knew that Mark Sexton, a fellow Channel aspirant who was taking the day out of his holidays to do a long swim, was due to join me around 8am. So I hung around close to the slip until he arrived and then we started doing laps-each lap was 2 miles so these broke up the day nicely into 1-hour segments or a little more. Perfect for feeding. A lap, then a feed, then another lap. At 10am Ossi arrived with hot soup for us. Lovely! He warned us that bad weather was due for the afternoon-possibly gale-force winds and thunderstorms. I was kinda hoping for the thunderstorms because if there was lightning it would give me a valid excuse to get out!! But for now the weather was fine so there was no excuse for it, just keep on swimming...

A few hours later my parents arrived with another hot delivery, more hot soup and flasks of hot water for Maxim. At this stage Mark was starting to feel tired-he realised that he hadn't eaten much the day before and his body wasn't as well-fueled as it could have been. He stayed another half-hour, about 6 hours in total, and then I was on my own. I knew that I would have about 6 hours on my own before Imelda and Ossi came to join me at 8pm that evening for my final hour and a half. This was the testing time. 6 hours up and down to the buoy on my own. Total boredom. The weather was starting to get worse too so there weren't even very many walkers around to make me feel like I had company. Nothing for it but to keep the head down and the arms moving. I timed myself for each lap to make sure that I was staying on pace.

Then at around 5pm my mother arrived with yet more hot food. In the lashing rain. It was colder out of the water than in the water at this stage. But time was passing quickly, with each feed knocking off another hour. At around 7:30pm my parents arrived back to make sure that everything was going ok. At this stage the weather was horrendous. Of course the lightning storms never materialised (although I know that I would have been giving out like mad after if they had arrived and had disrupted my swim regardless of how much I wished for them there and then!). But there was wind and rain, rain and more rain. I knew that Imelda and Ossi were going to be there a half hour later so I just swam back and forth to the forest across the lake until they arrived. At which time Imelda decided to get in and up the pace to "see how I dealt with it". Surprisingly I was able to keep up. I guess all this training has taught me how to pace myself. My final hour was just as fast as my first. And I got out after 14 hours feeling GREAT! Both physically and mentally. I don't know if it was because I knew it was my last long training swim or what, but everything just fell into place that day. I love days like that where everything feels easy. It shouldn't have been-I'd done a long swim a couple of days before, I hadn't slept well, the weather was horrible and I spent a lot of the day out there on my own. But I never once had to really argue with myself about staying in there. I knew that I had to do 14 hours and I just went and did it. And I'm really hoping that it will be like that on my Channel day too. Head down, one arms in front of the other, over and over again. I'm not thinking for a minute that it's going to be easy. But I've done all the distance preparation I can do and I am ready to have my go. Bring it on!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night...

This weekend has been a long one-yes, it was the bank holiday weekend, but it was also a really big weekend for my swimming training. I swam almost 25hours over 3days. It's not the most I've swam in a short time (I did 21hours over 2days a few weeks back, and I've done 27hours over 3days a few times), but it included my longest swim so far, plus a very interesting swim...

On Friday night, I did my first night swim. Most Channel aspirants train for an hour or two at night in preparation in case they end up swimming in the dark on the day of their swim. In my case, I will definitely be swimming in the dark. Perhaps over two nights depending on what time of day I start. So it was REALLY important for me to see what it was like to swim in the dark and to make sure that it wouldn't freak me out on the day!

Swimming at night can be difficult for a few different reasons. First of all, there is the obvious one: swimming in darkness. Not being able to see anything but whatever lights are around from the pilot boat and other ships. Another issue is the cold. The water of course does not change temperature at night. But the air does. And because the body is used to being asleep at night, it will feel colder anyway. There's tiredness. I must admit that I'm a bit of a night owl-if I'm working towards a deadline I tend to get my best work done at 1 or 2am. But even so, once it comes to 3 or 4am, my body wants to sleep. Apparently the hour before dawn is the worst and the time at which people feel at their lowest.

So to experience all of this, it was decided that I would start swimming when it was starting to get dark, and finish swimming when it was fully bright again or an hour or two after. A great idea in theory. In practice I was kinda thinking that an hour or two would be a lot nicer! I didn't really like the thoughts of spending a whole night swimming in the waters of Sandycove as the lights in the houses went off and people went off to their cosy beds. In fact, I spent most of the week dreading it. But I knew it was important to do it-even more so because of the fact that I was dreading it. As I've so often said to myself this year, what's life without a challenge?!

So on Friday evening at 8:45pm, I left for Sandycove, nervous and excited. And the strangest thing happened. On the radio came the song 'Nightswimming' by R.E.M. I haven't heard that song in a couple of years and now I hear it when I'm on my way to my first night swim. A very strange coincidence! A good omen hopefully :)

I arrived at Sandycove at 9:30pm, armed with my light-sticks, and enough food to feed an army (seriously-if anyone looked into my car they'd have thought I was going away for the whole weekend!). Imelda and Ossi had kindly offered to be in Sandycove all night to feed me hot food and drinks, and I had two kayakers-Niall was going to do the first 4hours and then Padraig would take over until it got bright. So everything was in place for me to get started.

I was dreading how cold the water was going to be. I had been in Sandycove the day before for a couple of hours, and it was really cold-somewhere between 12 and 13 deg C. I was freezing, and that was by day with the sun shining. I didn't know how I was going to be able to cope with that temperature in the colder air. But there was only one way to find out! So I started my swim at 10:20pm. And it actually didn't feel too cold! I was plesantly surprised that my hands didn't react badly to the temperature at all-I had been worried that the muscles in my right hand and forearm would seize up as they usually do in cold water and trigger my shoulder pain. But they didn't, so all was good.

We couldn't go around the island because it had been stormy all day and there was still a very big swell around the back. So out to the beach we headed and from there we swam up and down the front of the island. Darkness fell, which was actually quite nice-I enjoyed the peaceful feeling of being out there on my own, just swimming along next to the kayak with no distractions. By day there's always something going on, something to watch or look for. But at night there's nothing. So it's much easier to zone out and just swim. It was time for the first feed and I hadn't noticed an hour passing at all.

We had decided that I was going to use the swim to try out different foods since I had people there to prepare them for me. So during the night I tried different soups, banana, creamed rice, pot noodle, jaffa cake bars, mini rolls, hot chocolate, and of course, Maxim. Everything went down well and stayed down so all was good.

The first 3 hours passed quickly and then Padraig got in to get used to the dark while Niall was still there. So I had an hour with the two kayaks in the water...during which I managed to get a jellyfish sting, my first in Sandycove this year! Not being able to see anything in the water is actually a pretty good thing when it comes to me and jellyfish. When I can see them I spend my time watching for them and trying to swim around them when I do see them. Which isn't good because it disrupts my stroke. And the sting really isn't THAT bad, the one I got that night was gone within 10minutes. I just find it so hard to convince myself of that when I see them around me by day!

Niall left at the end of that hour, and Ossi got in to swim with me for a while. I hadn't realised just how bright the lights I was using were until he got in and I could see his. I got electronic lights from Freda a while back that she advises all swimmers to use now rather than the previously-used glow sticks. They're supposed to shine for a radius of 2 miles. And they really work! They must have looked so strange though for someone driving down the road-thankfully Imelda had the foresight to warn the neighbours what we were up to the day before!

It was fun having someone to swim with for a while, it broke the monotony of it all. By the time Ossi was getting out I knew that I only had a couple of hours left before it got bright again. I also knew, however, that those hours would probably be the hardest. And they were. I started getting very cold and just wanted to be out of there. I never really got tired, but I would have done anything to get out of that cold, dark water and into my warm, cosy bed. Everyone was great though, keeping me as warm as possible with the hot food, and making me push harder when I didn't want to.

Eventually the sun's rays started peeking through. It was very pretty watching the light grow brighter and brighter. Unfortunately though I think I was mentally expecting to feel warmer when sun came up. And of course it didn't really, it would take a few hours for the heat of the sun to have any effect. So I started really noticing the cold at this stage. My muscles had started feeling it too-my shoulder and upper back muscles had gotten very tight, as had my right arm (but strangely not my hands where I normally feel it!) and my thighs were starting to cramp from the cold, to the point where I couldn't really kick. And of course I was probably getting colder as a result. On my 6:45am feed I decided to look at the temperature on my watch. I had been avoiding looking at it because I was afraid that I was only imagining the cold and that it would tell me that it was actually 16deg or something. But no. The watch read at 12.4deg C. And if general opinion is to be believed that body temperature has an effect on the watch reading, the actual temperature could have been closer to 11.4deg. I had never swam so long in that temperature before. Let alone at night. I was actually quite happy to see that reading though because it meant that what I was feeling was reality, and not just my mind playing tricks on me.

I talked to the others and decided that since I couldn't go for a shower in Kinsale until 8am, I'd do one more hour and then get out and head into Kinsale to get warmed up. But at 7:00am, the others called me out and decided that it was enough. And I wasn't going to argue! So after 8hrs 44mins, my night swim was over.

All in all I quite enjoyed it, apart from the freezing cold. And I think it was probably good to experience that too, because it won't be that cold in the Channel, so I'll have that to remind myself of what I have done when I'm at a wimpish moment!! One of the big sayings in the Channel swimming world is "prepare for the worst, hope for the best". And I think this night swim qualifies. Dover water temperatures are currently around 16deg and might even be a degree warmer by September if the weather is nice. So I'm not expecting 11 or 12deg at any point!

Thanks so much to the gang who helped me on the swim-Imelda, Ossi, Padraig, Niall. It can't have been fun for them hanging around all night. But I really appreciate having the opportunity to do it and it has proved to be a big confidence-booster.

I think that the rest of my weekend's adventures will have to wait for another post...time and space are of limited supply! I'll finish off the rest of it in the next few days...

Friday, July 3, 2009

Where to start?

Well...I guess I'll go back to where my last post in May ended and take it from there...

When I started in the sea at the end of May it was still cold-10deg C. Which didn't help my shoulder at all, the cold was causing everything to tense up and making it worse. I was getting very annoyed that I couldn't get back into the training the way I wanted to, and at the same time I knew that I just had to be patient and let it heal. And then I was unbelievably lucky...we had a weekend of absolutely beautiful weather that brought the temperature up to 14deg C.

I was in Cavan that weekend for the Lough Sheelin swim. I had signed up to do the 15km swim but from the way my shoulder had been acting up the few days previously I figured I'd see if I could get to 5km and then decide what to do from there. We travelled up to Cavan on the Saturday and headed to Martin Cullen's house-the race organiser and our very kind host for the weekend. He had prepared a huge dinner spread so we ate until we were bursting and then chatted for a while before getting to bed. Sunday morning was an early one but it did start with the yummiest porridge ever made for us by Martin! A great start to the day. We headed for the lake and got ready to start. It was a beautiful day, not a ripple on the lake. I was sharing a kayaker with Imelda, and decided that I'd head to the 5km mark and see how I felt then. So off we went. The water temperature was gorgeous-15deg C, and it was lovely and clear-normally I'm not a big fan of freshwater swimming because it can be quite murky, but this wasn't really. It was a perfect day for a swim, and for the first time in a long while, my shoulder didn't hurt :) I was feeling great! We got to the 5km mark and I decided that I'd go to the 7.5km and stop there at the half-way point. I was feeling good enough to turn around and start coming back (the course was 7.5km to the other end of the lake and 7.5km back) but the most I had managed the week before was 5km and I was sore after that so I didn't want to risk pushing it too far. And I didn't regret my decision after-I got out feeling really good for having completed more than I had planned and I wasn't sore. When I got back to the start I sunbathed for a while, did the 1km swim to stretch out, and basically enjoyed the afternoon. It had been so long since I just enjoyed swimming-it had become such a chore and something that I had to do rather than something that I wanted to do. And I had gotten to the point where I thought that the injury was never going to go away, that I was going to spend the summer fighting it. But the swim showed that it could go away, and it would in time. It was just a really important day for my recovery I think-both physically and mentally. And I can't wait to go back next year and do the full 15k!

Now it's time to go and get myself ready for my long swims this weekend...more to come on Monday...I figure that if I keep posting in bite-sized pieces I might eventually catch up! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Where did June go?

Things have been so crazy the past month. As they have been the month before and the month before that I guess. But now that I'm in the sea I've got travel time to and from training, plus all the time that it takes to try to coordinate company for my swims. Not a straightforward task when I'm doing 8 and 10 hour swims!! But all has been good, and yes, I have been doing those long swims, and the best part is that I've been able to-shoulder pain is GONE!! Mostly anyway-on the very rough days it twinges but then I just get out of the rough conditions-luckily there are a few areas around Sandycove that are always quite calm. And I've swum enough in those rough conditions to know that I'm able to if needs be-I can't see any benefit in swimming through them for the sake of it and ending up injured again.

June has been quite a fun month with lots of different things going on. Ned organised a long distance training camp, so we had some visitors around for a couple of weeks. In the middle of that we had the Champion of Champions and a 6-hour qualification swim for those doing the Channel this year. As well as that I've been swimming in lots of different places-Oysterhaven, Cobh, Loch Ine, Inniscara, even Kerry. It's been great to get a bit of variety-Sandycove is great for the boring mental training that needs to be done for the Channel but I think I'd go insane if I didn't get out of there every so often!!

And on top of all of that, the weather has been GORGEOUS! We did have a few days of extremely cold water in the middle of the month after a storm, but other than that it's been positively tropical-water temps are up as high as 15 or 16deg C. It means that the jellies are in, but it's mainly the pink non-stinging ones so it's not so bad. And it's worth it to not be shivering after every long swim!!

For now I don't have time to get into any more detail about what I've been up to, but I've got a rest day Friday so hopefully I'll get to put up some more about what I've been up to then :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Injury Time is Almost Over!

I guess I've been pretty lucky up until now on the injury front, especially with the distances that I've been doing in the pool. Unfortunately my luck has run out this past week. My shoulder that's been a little sore on and off the past few months decided to really start complaining last week. On Thursday it was quite sore, but Friday was the real decider-it was very painful to swim and didn't get any better as I warmed up. Time to rest it.

So I've been going to physio the past week and I've done no swimming, which felt very strange (as well as frustrating). But thankfully the break seems to be doing it good-I'm going to be easing back into it after the weekend. I can't wait!! I just have to be very careful now that I don't do too much too soon and end up back where I was. But hopefully the worst is over :)

So now the fun starts-I'm in the sea full-time from Monday onwards. All along I'd been really looking forward to this but I was really hoping that the water would have warmed up a bit by now! But I'm not going to be able to do huge distances next week anyway with my shoulder still recovering so it's a perfect time to start increasing my time in the cold water. Hopefully by the time I'm doing slightly longer stuff we'll have had some warmer weather (although I won't hold my breath!). And regardless of the temperature, it means that I have no tumble turns, no chlorine, no blue lines, no people in the way from now on. And that can only be a good thing!